Anyone who feels the renewed madness at FC Schalke 04 around the recruiting of Ralf Rangnick as sports director as unprecedented or unique is either very young, has not known the Bundesliga long enough – or is a good displacer. A reminder of the time when Schalke 04, as the reigning runner-up, helped Rangnick to his second term – and before that he had to get rid of a very powerful board manager trainer named Felix Magath.
In the end, it wasn’t even clear who had kicked whom. On the morning of March 16, 2011, the supervisory board of the reigning runner-up, DFB Cup finalists and the last remaining German club in the Champions League FC Schalke 04 met for a special meeting.
The only item on the agenda: Discussion and voting on the dismissal of a board member. Felix Magath, who was to be dismissed, had canceled his participation in the meeting at short notice and had his lawyer informed that the participation “made no sense”. “If Mr Magath is to have the opportunity to debate, he must know what the meeting is all about,” said Magath.
In the afternoon the lawyer reported again: his client had taken the “unjustified and ineffective dismissal as a member of the board as an opportunity to terminate his employment contract with immediate effect.” But he would not waive his financial demands. He should still be entitled to up to twelve million euros from his contract, which runs until 2013.
What goes on when you are board member, manager and coach of the Schalke 04 football club at the same time. Schalke may have cracked the record with the most coach dismissals in Bundesliga history in this negative season, but it wasn’t even as colorful as ten years ago on tabula rasa day February 28, 2021, when after the 1: 5 against VfB Stuttgart sports director Jochen Schneider, coach Christian Gross, his assistant Rainer Widmayer, athletics coach Werner Leuthard and licensed player coordinator Sascha Riether had to leave.
Schalke 04: Tönnies gave up power
But the quintet only had a fraction of Magath’s power at Schalke. Magath had come to Schalke for less than two years in the summer of 2009 as a sensation champion at VfL Wolfsburg.
Tönnies, who at that time actually liked himself best in the role of the almighty patriarch, had thought it a good idea to share power with the grinder and master maker – the longing for the title was immeasurable at the time, but somehow seemed realistic.
Magath came, saw there was no money – and did Magath things. The most expensive addition before his first season was the young Lewis Holtby. The 18-year-old came from Alemannia Aachen in the summer and was loaned to VfL Bochum in the winter. In the A-Juniors and the second team, Magath, who can also develop talents, found a few gems such as Joel Matip (then 17, now Liverpool FC), Lukas Schmitz (then 22, now Venlo), Christoph Moritz (then 21, today Jahn Regensburg). They all became regular players and stormed the Bundesliga in a team with Manuel Neuer, Marcelo Bordon, Rafinha, Heiko Westermann and Kevin Kuranyi. Schalke finished the season in second behind FC Bayern Munich.
Even then, rumors of atmospheric disturbances were making the rounds at the office, the tone of Magath and his loyal followers was too loud even for die-hard Schalke fans. “To skeptics in the office, his staff seems like an occupying force,” he wrote mirror in August 2010.
The season started badly and got worse. Magath also did Magath things: The board of directors quarreled with the members because they refused to amend the articles of association to allow them to make transfers with a volume of over 300,000 euros bypassing the supervisory board in the future. The manager flirted with HSV and the very young club RB Leipzig in the autumn, the coach sent Jermaine Jones to the regional league team because the national player was allegedly unable to meet the demands of the Bundesliga.
In winter Magath, always a big buyer and passionate squad builder, took it to the extreme: he literally got midfielder Ali Karimi, who he had once trained at Bayern, and striker Angelos Charisteas, previously without a club, out of oblivion. Manager Horst Heldt also came from VfB Stuttgart. Although he denied it at the time: Tönnies needed a plan B for Magath.
Schalke 04: Magath went back to Wolfsburg
From a sporting point of view, things went tolerably better in the second half of the season, Magath led Schalke into the DFB Cup final and the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Angelos Charisteas scored the winning goal in the 84th minute of his first and only appearance for Schalke on matchday 26 in the 84th minute: 1 against Eintracht Frankfurt. Five days later, Magath was history anyway.
The accusation in the room at the time: Although the coach Magath had the transfers approved by the sports director and board member Magath, the board Magath had failed to obtain approval from the supervisory board. Had Magath just adopted a Lex Magath himself?
After Magath was recalled, Tönnies only said: “We made revisions and found things not as we should find them.” And: “The fact that the costs for the team have been reduced in the long term is what I think was the statement made by someone who may not have looked very closely.”